White House accuses Russian Federation of deflecting blame on Syria attack
Apr 13 2017 by Lorena Waters
We can only hope that this act of war against Syria is nothing but a political ploy, and that Trump is beating the establishment at their own game.
The news conference came after Russian President Vladimir Putin met the top American diplomat for nearly two hours to see if they could rescue relations between the world's mightiest military powers.
Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev (not pictured) in Moscow's Kremlin, Russia April 5, 2017.
The G-7 members - Germany, France, Britain, Canada, Japan and current president Italy, as well as the USA - are also trying to grasp what the US administration's foreign policy is, amid conflicting signals from Washington.
Proposals for more sanctions on Russian Federation have been rejected by G7 nations.
Here's the background to Tillerson's crucial trip to Moscow.
At a White House press briefing on Tuesday, press secretary Sean Spicer said Russian Federation was "isolated" in its support for Syria.
Tillerson said Syria's government had committed more than 50 attacks using chlorine or other chemical weapons over the duration of the conflict.
Intelligence services from several Western countries dispute that claim. Since last Thursday's cruise missile strike, Tillerson and other US officials appear to have reverted to the past administration's rhetoric of insisting that Assad is on the way out, without outlining any strategy for making that happen.
The comments came as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called the Trump administration to clarify its policies as he opened a fraught meeting with his American counterpart, Rex Tillerson.
Putin has angrily rejected the accusations against Damascus and slammed the USA bombing as "a violation of worldwide law". "And our hope is Bashar al-Assad will not be a part of that future".
Both the Observatory and Daraa-based activist Ahmad al-Masalmeh said warplanes carried out raids on Daraa while helicopter gunships dropped at least 14 barrels loaded with explosives. To a degree it has given the Trump administration a bit of political breathing room amid allegations that Russian Federation interfered with the 2016 election to help Trump, who, throughout the campaign, spoke warmly of Putin.
The NSC report said Syria's use of chemical weapons was "unacceptable" and posed a "clear threat" to the United States and the world.
Any hope in Russian Federation that the Trump administration would herald less confrontational relations has been dashed in the past week after the new USA leader fired missiles at Syria to punish Moscow's ally for its suspected use of poison gas.
A senior United States official suggested that Russian forces must have had foreknowledge of the chemical attack.
Asked the same question at a separate briefing, Secretary of Defense James Mattis responded, "It was very clear that the Assad regime planned it, orchestrated it, and executed it". Trump says it's also "very bad for mankind".
Moscow's comments appeared to reflect a sharp change from a year ago, when Putin hailed Trump as a strong figure and Russian state television was consistently full of effusive praise for him. But they were divided about how to deal with Syria, and Moscow. He said the two sides would also discuss disagreements on Syria and how to end the country's six-year civil war.
As the council debated its response on Thursday, the United States fired cruise missiles at a Syrian airbase that the U.S. says was used to launch the chemical attack. It could signal Trump's willingness to use military force, and perhaps even a readiness to pursue military interventions and regime change. "So you really have Iran, and you have Russian Federation, and you have Assad".
So what can Tillerson achieve in Moscow?
SecTillerson: Our military action was a direct response to the Assad regime's barbarism.